WESTPORT, Conn. Rabbi Robert Orkand said he was "thrilled" that the man suspected of murdering Westport resident Yekutiel "Kuti" Zeevi had been arrested.
"I know for the Zeevi family there was a real sense that this tragedy was compounded by the fact that whoever did this was still at large," said Orkand, a longtime friend of Zeevi and his family. "While catching him will not bring back Kuti, I hope it does bring a certain comfort to the family."
The suspect, Andrew Robert Levene, aka Robert Thomas, was arrested Monday in Spain by Spanish National Police after a seven-week manhunt. He faces federal murder, robbery and firearm charges in the Dec. 8 robbery and murder at Zeevi's Post Road East business, Y.Z. Jewelry Manufacturing.
Investigators tracked down Levene, in part, by tracing a cellphone he allegedly used to contact Zeevi and other jewelers, an affidavit said.
Orkand of Westport's Temple Israel, who led Zeevi's funeral service last month , said he was "very impressed" with the work of the Westport Police Department, state police and the other agencies involved in the investigation.
"I think people expected the investigation to go on much longer," he said. "As a member of this community, it's comforting to know they pursued this as aggressively as they did."
Lori Yanell, who runs the Textile Store with her father in the same plaza as Zeevi's business, said she, too, expected the investigation to last longer. Having known Zeevi for about 25 years, she said she was "elated" when she heard the suspect had been captured.
Yanell said her father, who has known Zeevi longer than she has, was close to tears when she told him the news.
Gina DaSilva, owner of Gina's Hair Salon, also located in the same plaza as Zeevi's business, said she felt relieved.
"I thought to myself, 'Oh, thank God they caught the guy,' " said DaSilva, who said she knew Zeevi for about 35 years. "I think the police did a fantastic job, and deserve a little 'Thank you' from us all."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.